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Here is a story about Mauritania that was headlined on Yahoo. It concerns Mauritania's second biggest city, Nouadhibou. Until this last year, there was no road connecting the two cities. Now there is, and it goes right by my house. If you check out the story, you will see a picture of men wearing the long flowing white robes, called in Hassiniya Arabic dra'ahs, which are typical clothing here.

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Now, if you were going to put together a celebration of reading, what would you do? Me, I’d have games and bright balloons, free books, people dressed up like characters from them, people reading stories, puppets, etc. Not so the French! Instead, they tested on comprehension for all the books read throughout the year. What a great celebration!

I managed to survive my 4 hours at the French school. Speaking to children in a foreign language is more difficult than speaking to adults, I’ve found, and in an informal survey taken of my friends, I think my experience is common. Kids speak more quickly, they use more slang, and they are less understanding of my mistakes and funny accent.

It was fun staying for school with my 3. We walked in and they scattered to their classes while I stood under a tree with some other parents. Already at 8 a.m. it was starting to get hot. I was assigned a desk under an open tent, testing the K-Gr 2 on extracts taken from various books. I had to read them aloud! The kids were divided into teams of 3, one from each grade. As a team raced up to me and I began to read the instructions, I would see looks of stress and panic appear on their little faces! But once I read the extracts, which I did with lots of expressions even as I murdered the vowels, the panicked expression would be replaced with confidence. “Je sais! Je sais!” (I know! I know!) they’d shout, and hands would shoot up into the air. It was even kinda fun.

At the recreation (recess), I went with the other mums into the teacher’s area, where I was given a tiny cup of extra-strong coffee. I chatted with 2 of my 3 kids’ teachers, where they revealed to me a human side that my kids don’t even suspect exists! Then it was back under the tent for a rather-difficult crossword puzzle with older kids. By noon, I was heat-fatigued. Although I’d been in the shade the whole time, it was 104 degrees outside and the water in my bottle was hotter than the coffee had been. Still, no one laughed at my accent, at least not to my face, and everything went fine—even according to Ilsa, who is often ashamed of my accent.

Home for lunch, then up to the university to pick up an enormous stack of thesis papers. Juries start next week. In fact, I should be reading them right now!

Last night we had our annual thank-you dinner for those who volunteer at Oasis Books. We include Midwesterners, Southerners, Canadians, and Donn and I, with our ideal West-Coast accents. (You must admit it’s easiest to understand and pleasantest on the ear… J ) We got into one of those you-pronouce-bag-HOW? conversations, and hit on words like aunt, crayon, garage. Towards the end, we noticed our two non-native speakers staring at us; a Dutch woman and a Brazillian man who learned English in Wales. “Do you ever have conversations like this?” we asked. They shook their heads. Guess they really don’t know how to have fun in Sao Paulo!

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